CATEGORIES Movie NewsIn Disney's "Wreck-It Ralph," John C. Reilly voices a disgruntled video game character who's tired of being the bad guy after 30 long years. Once he decides to game jump after hours at the arcade, he finds himself in worlds he never imagined in his primitive 8-bit universe.
The part of big-hearted brute Ralph fits Reilly well, so it's hard to believe he wasn't eager at first to jump on board an animated Disney film. When approached to play Ralph, he gave director Rich Moore all the reasons he didn't want to make the movie. But once Moore agreed to let him have script input and work in the same room with co-stars Sarah Silverman (as bratty "Sugar Rush" character Vannelope) Jack McBrayer (as good guy Fix-It Felix) and Jane Lynch (as a tough-talking sergeant from a first-person-shooter game), they made a film that Reilly says he "couldn't be more proud of."
Reilly spoke to Moviefone about his favorite obscure video games, improvising insults with Sarah Silverman and the role he's really dying to play.
What were your favorite arcade games when you were young? Probably in this order as they came out: Of course, the game changer, Space Invaders. It was literally as if a space ship landed on the bowling alley where I used to hang out. Not that into Pong, for some reason. Pong was the first one, I think I saw that maybe in a bar, first. Remember, they had those kind of bar console games. I was never good at Pong, even back then, it seemed overly simple. Pac-Man after that, although I was never very good at Pac-Man. Those ghosts would get me every time. There's this weird, obscure game that no one ever seems to know and I've never seen it again since I was a kid. It was called Tail Gunner, where you were looking at the backside of a space ship as it's going away and things are chasing you. I think of all those early, simple games, Galaga is still pretty fun to play.
How did they pitch this movie to you? I first heard about it from [co-screenwriter] Phil Johnston. He and I had worked together on "Cedar Rapids." He said, "I'm doing this thing for Disney. They're going to come to you. I hope you consider it.'" Then I met with Rich Moore and we had lunch. I told him all the reasons that I didn't want to do it: That animation was boring for actors, that you just stand in a room by yourself and they don't even give you the whole script, you have to just kind of be a trained chimp or a marionette. Rich was like, "You know what, you're right. That is the way most animated movies are made. But we can make this movie however we want to make it and if you want to improvise, it's fine with me. If you want the other actors in the room with you so you have someone to react off of and riff with, that's fine. We'll do it that way. If you want to come to story meetings, or you want to meet with the animators..." So he really included me in the whole process, which I think is fairly rare for actors in animation, and as a result, it ended up being something I'm really proud of. They put a lot of heart in the character and he ended up resembling me in a lot of ways.
It seems like it was written just for you. Well, it became written just for me in the process of all of us working this way. I tailor-made myself into Ralph and Ralph was tailor-made for me.
What kinds of things did you change? Just as things came up, I would say things like, "Well, that seems a little harsh. What if I say it like this?" There were a lot of meetings where the script started out in a really different place than it ended up. So I'd go in and meet with Rich and Clark and say, "Wouldn't this be funnier if...?" One of the things that I really advocated was the fish-out-of-water sequences. Like when he first gets into a new world, he has to be completely unfamiliar with it. That's where the comedy is, in the contrast. There were a couple of versions of the script where he kind of already knew what these different worlds were all about. It was more like, I just wanted to be included as a creative partner in the process instead of just one element that they just plugged in, which is the way it is for actors usually.
So did you get to act with the other actors in the same room? Yeah. Rich was a man of his word, definitely. In fact, every time I did any kind of interactive dialogue, there was always someone there. And that really lent itself to the scenes, because Sarah and I, that opening scene where we first meet each other in the tree, a lot of that scene was improvised. It was just Sarah and I playing with each other. And then the scene where I kind of have to break her heart in order to save her, I don't know if that would have been as powerful if we weren't there, right across from each other. I think that lent a lot.
Did she bring her own ideas as well? Mostly, she would do additional versions of things. Like, if she called me "stinkbrain," she would come up with six more kind of childish taunts.
What's your favorite scene now that you've seen the finished film? The stuff that I'm really proud of that I'm in, that scene I mentioned, that emotional kind of breakup scene between Sarah and I. I'm really proud of how that one turned out. I think it gives a real emotional punch to the movie right when it's seeming to just be kind of sillier than that. A lot of the scenes that I was really tickled to see were between Jack and Jane Lynch. That scene where (SPOILER!) they kind of fall for each other. It was so bizarre and effective and hilarious. I really believed that they've fallen for each other. I saw the movie with my wife and during that scene, she turned to me and she said, "This is really avant garde!" You just don't think you're going to hear that at a Disney screening. I think she's right.
Have you been loading up on all the "Wreck-It Ralph" toys? I have a few things, because I'm not going to be young forever. Might be one day when I have to cash in my old collectibles at a Sotheby's auction of original "Wreck-It Ralph" toys.
Is that your first action figure or toy? I think it is. It's been talked about for other movies that I've done, but I think this is the first time. It's not really me, but it's got my voice in it.
What does it say? "I'm gonna wreck it!" It says a whole bunch of things. Whether they're actual lines that were in the movie, I don't know, but they're from the recording sessions.
Which of your other famous film characters should get their own arcade game? Like maybe Dewey Cox from "Walk Hard" or Cal Naughton Jr from "Talladega Nights"? Cal Naughton Jr. might be a pretty fun racing game. There could be a whole beer-drinking bonus section. "Boogie Nights" might be a pretty fun game starring the Reed Rothchild character. What would the bonus round be?
It would have to be X-rated. Yeah, well the movie was R-rated, so ...
Maybe that should be a pinball game. What about Steve Brule? That game might have a lot of glitches. It might be broken by the time you get it.
What's going on with the Railroad Revival? You and your band (John Reilly & Friends) were going to be going on the road -- or by train -- with Willie Nelson. It got canceled!
What's the story with that? I don't know! I know what you know. If you looked on the website, it just says the investor pulled out and they weren't able to do it. It was a very ambitious undertaking: Eight cities in eight days on a vintage railroad train, where you're setting up a stage that doesn't exist from town to town. I think it was maybe a little too ambitious. Who knows? They did it once before. Maybe they'll reorganize and get it going again. I hope so.
Are you buddies with Willie Nelson? No, I've never met Willie Nelson.
So this was your chance. This was my chance!
Are we going to get more musical performances from you soon? Yeah, we're going to record an album, I think, with the band and we're going to continue to tour. We just did San Francisco, the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Tour. We'll look for other opportunities. They won't be as cool as riding around on a vintage train with Willie Nelson, unfortunately. But we'll find something else.
Any more musicals in your future? God, I hope so. I feel like I was born to do musicals. I wish there more movie musicals being made.
Is there a Broadway musical you'd like to bring to the big screen? Yeah, I love the music of "Sweeney Todd." I know it's been done a lot and there's already a movie of it, but that's the part that I would love to play someday. Nathan Detroit in "Guys and Dolls" is another one. That's sort of like the Holy Grail, that one.
Well, you can always bring Sweeney Todd back to Broadway. [Perks up] Yeah! That's right. Who's got some money?